Chapter 4 Summary

Motes gets out of Mrs. Watts' bed early the next morning with one thought in mind: he is going to buy a car. It is an odd thought, since he has never thought of buying a car before; in fact, he has never wanted one, has rarely driven one, and has no license. But he has fifty dollars and he goes to the car lot by the railroad tracks to find one.

He wanders about the lot, ignoring the salesman who wants to show him their stock. Eventually, he comes across a white boy sitting on a gasoline can in front of a tin shack. The boy cries that he must show him the automobiles, but Motes pays no mind. He finally finds the car.

It is in the last row and it is high and rat-colored. The boy catches up to Motes, cursing, and Motes asks to see the owner. The boy admits he is the owner and Motes examines the interior of the car, which is a dusty green color; the back seat is missing altogether. A two-by-four is placed across the frame to form the bench seat. The two back side-windows are covered with dark green, fringed window shades. He asks the boy how much he wants for the car.

The boy wants an offer and Motes replies that it is not worth what it would take for him to cart it off. Just then, a man who is undoubtedly the boy’s father comes rumbling up from the office. The man’s price is seventy-five dollars, but eventually Motes pays him forty dollars plus gas, saying he mostly wants the car to be his house. He is embarrassed to have the man and boy watch him drive because he is so inexperienced, but he manages to pull out of the parking lot and down past the railroad tracks to the highway.

There he drives fast, until a pickup truck with a load of furniture and a crate of chickens slows him down. The road winds around a corner until it faces a gray boulder jutting out of the embankment; Motes reads the words which have been painted on the giant rock: “WOE TO THE BLASPHEMER AND WHOREMONGER! WILL HELL SWALLOW YOU UP?” Motes stops his car and sits staring at the two words at the bottom of the sign: Jesus Saves.

Behind him is a huge oil transport truck, but Motes does not notice until the driver comes to the window and puts his hand on Motes’ shoulder. He appears not to notice the trucker and blankly says every whoremonger was something else first, and he does not have to run from anything because he does not believe in anything. The man screams at Motes to get his “outhouse” off the road, but Motes calmly asks him how to get to the zoo. He needs to go see a boy who works there.